Wednesday 26 June 2019

Federer and Nadal progress to set up semi-final showdown

Roger Federer. Photo: Getty
Roger Federer. Photo: Getty

Simon Briggs

The greatest rivalry in modern tennis will deliver its latest chapter on Friday. And this one offers an irresistible twist, as Roger Federer - who is playing his first clay-court season since 2015 - sets out to storm Court Philippe Chatrier, Rafael Nadal's greatest stronghold.

Both men surged through their quarter-finals yesterday in fine style, even if Federer had to put in the tougher shift as he dispatched compatriot Stan Wawrinka in a lengthy four-set match.

The French Open schedule offers an extra rest day at this stage, which should prove useful as Federer recovers from his 3hr 35min win.

But that is far from being his only challenge, as he faces an opponent who has won all five of their previous meetings at Roland Garros.

"Facing Rafa, everybody knows it's going to be tough," said Federer, who can take consolation from his ongoing run of five straight wins against Nadal, all on hard courts.

"But you just never know. He might be sick. You might be playing great or for some reason he's struggling. Maybe there's incredible wind or 10 rain delays. That's why you need to put yourself in that position.

"For me to get to Rafa is not simple. It took five matches. That's why I'm very happy to play Rafa, because if you want to achieve something on the clay, inevitably, at some stage, you will go through Rafa, because he's that strong and he will be there.

"I knew when I signed up for the clay that hopefully that's going to happen. If I had a different mindset to avoid him, then I should not have played the clay. So I think it helped me to play so well so far."

Federer and Wawrinka played some spectacular points, not least the two sparkling volleys that Federer produced to close out his 7-6, 4-6, 7-6, 6-4 victory, whereas Nadal's 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 dismissal of Kei Nishikori was far more routine.

"It will be special moment," Nadal said of the forthcoming semi-final. "Let's try to be ready for it."

Meanwhile in the women's game, Johanna Konta left Chris Evert speechless with the quality of her performance as she swept aside Sloane Stephens to reach a third grand slam semi-final.

It was scarcely believable that this was the same player who had never won a main-draw match at Roland Garros before this year as she raced to a 6-1, 6-4 victory in just 70 minutes.

Stephens lost in the final last year to Simona Halep and had been backed to get there again but she was powerless to stop Konta, who hit 25 winners in the match and only dropped one point on serve in the second set.

Konta will face Czech 19-year-old Marketa Vondrousova, who won a high-class tussle 7-6 (1), 7-5 against 31st seed Petra Martic yesterday. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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